On the 19th July 2011, Tory MP Caroline Spelman announced that the government would carry out two pilot badger culls in large areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset as part of the governments bovine TB eradication programme.
What this means is:
- Landowners who wish to cull badgers would need to apply for a licence from Natural England
- The trials will assess the humaneness, efficacy and safety of the free shooting of badgers.
- Groups of qualified landowners under licence will be able to shoot badgers at night with a high velocity rifle.
- 70 % of the badgers in any trial area must be slaughtered.
- Each trial area must be at least 150 sq.km
The culls are intended to reduce TB in cattle by some 16% over nine years in the immediate area. Across England though the effect is thought to be much smaller, around 5%.
Even one of the government's own top science advisors has branded the cull "a crazy scheme":
Many wildlife organisations have urged the government to undertake the vaccination route as it is feared the cull may actually further the spread of Bovine TB:
Bovine TB or Mycobacterium bovis or bovine tubercle bacillus is part of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. The organism is carried by many animals including deer, cats, dogs, pigs, alpacas, sheep and of course cattle. Mycobacterium bovis is an aerobic bacterium and the cause of TB in cattle . Bovine TB can jump the species barrier and cause tuberculosis in humans and this is where the problem has historically been. Pasteurisation of milk, immunisation and healthy diet has seen the number of cases reduce dramatically over the last 100 years and in most circles it is consider no longer a human concern. Farming practices have changed and food has become cheaper. Ironically this intensive farming leads to poor condition for cattle causing poor health and could itself be contributing to the increase in bovine TB in herds.
For the farmers it is a different issue. Cattle with Bovine Tb cannot be moved and cannot be sold in Europe causing great financial strain on farmers.
For more information regarding the cull and what you can do regards it, visit Brian May's excellent Team Badger website where many organisations (including the RSPCA and The Badgers Trust) and individuals are coming together to voice their concerns/opposition to the cull: http://www.teambadger.org/the_cull.html
One final thing I would ask all lovers of British Wildlife to do is to sign the petition at the below link and voice your support against the cull:
That's my drum banging over but please do spread the word